A couple of days ago, Steven Spielberg talked to a packed audience after a screening of a new print of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," which, somewhat quietly, turned 30 this year. (Most of our friends make a big fuss about it when they turn 30.) A few news items popped up out of this, from Harrison Ford turning down "Jurassic Park" to Spielberg sort of admitting "Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull" kinda stunk. But we were far more interested in something Spielberg said about another classic with an anniversary coming up.
Next year, "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" will turn 30. (Oh, and seriously: Steven Spielberg made "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "E.T." in consecutive years. Like, in the span of a few months.) That'll be its own new Blu-Ray DVD, and what's most noteworthy is a change that Spielberg won't be making. Or, more accurately, changing back. He is, thank heavens, getting rid of the walkie-talkies he digitally inserted in the hands of the government baddies, and giving them their guns back.
As evidenced by the image above from the 20th anniversary edition of "E.T.," for reasons even Spielberg himself doesn't seem to understand -- likely sensitivity to criticism by parents' groups, who didn't like some of the language he used, and objected to the use of guns, period -- he swapped out the guns carried by the agents pursuing Eliot and his extraterrestrial friend:
"For myself, I tried [changing a film] once and lived to regret it. Not because of fan outrage, but because I was disappointed in myself. I got overly sensitive to [some of the reaction] to E.T., and I thought if technology evolved, [I might go in and change some things]…it was OK for a while, but I realized what I had done was I had robbed people who loved E.T. of their memories of E.T. [...] If I put just one cut of E.T. on Blu-ray and it was the 1982, would anyone object to that? [The crowd yells "NO!" in unison.] OK, so be it."
Purists never like it when people tinker with their favorite films, but this change seemed to be a disproportionate consolation to the outcry from parents' groups, which itself was probably out of proportion to the influence on the audience of such fleeting gun imagery -- especially in comparison to the larger message of the film (aliens are peaceful creatures, Reese's Pieces are yummy, etc.).
Regardless, we still think the "South Park" parody of this is the best one. And we're ecstatic that "E.T." -- which, at the end of the day, might still be our favorite Spielberg film -- is getting back to normal. Now, can Spielberg do something about the video game?